“They don’t believe me,” laments Little Scout. He is sitting near the entrance to the pack’s cave, near the head of a small valley above Drake’s Brook. The pack long ago decided to use the human names for the valley’s features. Its peaks, roads and rivers were called words that made no sense, not nearly as much as ‘field between the hills’ or ‘tall trees by the pond’. But the uniqueness of the names made it easier to keep straight which ‘field between the hills’ they were talking about.
So over generations the wolves learned the human terms, and used them. They knew that a road called route forty-nine followed the Mad River uphill into Waterville, or The Waterville Valley. Or just Waterville Valley. Even the humans changed the words they used from time to time.
Little Scout is supposed to be sleeping, but instead he is sitting in the darkness talking to Robert, a fisher.
“They’re not gonna buy an idea like that, little guy,” says the fisher, to his wolf friend four times his size, though barely out of cubhood. “Not after that tale you told about the flying deer last fall.”
“I did see that, I swear it,” says Little Scout.
“Oh, it was a keeper,” says Robert. “Like an antlered Pegasus, it must have been!”
“Stop. Stop it,” Little Scout protests.
“But where’d they go? Are they just hiding in the trees? These trucks,” Robert says, in a mocking stage whisper. “Look, they might be right… behind you!”
Little Scout shakes his head in annoyance, while Robert rolls onto his back, stricken with laughter. It’s a saving grace that Robert’s obnoxious needling so quickly devolves into uncontrollable hysterics. Little Scout resists the urge to look over his shoulder, knowing only the cave lurks behind him. At least he is pretty sure. Mostly.
“I saw them come up the road, but if they haven’t left, we need to find them,” he says. Little Scout suspects that some of his more boring assignments are the result of one too many reports that went unbelieved, like the time a monkey was brought to the town library. It really happened, and it might have been considered with interest if another Scout had seen it. But Little Scout was the teller, and his story was treated as pointless nonsense.
Robert finally regains his composure. “Yeah, yeah, little guy, so what are you gonna do?”
“If I could find those trucks…”
This throws Robert into another bout of hysterics. “So the intrepid Little Scout goes off on his own to find the truth,” he laughs. “finding adventure and hijinks and saving the pack from certain disaster. I love it!”
“No, no. No, no, no,” Little Scout says, shaking his head violently. “Lark asked me to stay here, so I will.”
“Ah, the loyal cub defending his pack’s homestead, fulfilling his duty, and saving the pack from certain disaster.”
“Well, I’m just saying, that works, too,” the fisher says. He’s been pals with Little Scout since they shared a log to escape certain drowning in a flood the previous spring. The young wolf had been venturing a bit too far from the den when he was caught in a torrent of runoff leading to the Mad. At the time he wasn’t much bigger than Robert, and the fisher was able to pull the cub to the bank by the scruff of his neck. Scout’s mother started leaving food from the pack’s raids for Robert and his family.
She was taken by the humans before the snow fell, but the pack continued the tradition. Robert was sort of an honorary member, and despite the brash ribbings he gave the boy, and in fact all of them, he and Little Scout were inseparable.
The fact is, Robert believes Little Scout about the convoy of trucks on route forty-nine. He just doesn’t want to. He remembers full well the shuddering beast that spiraled above the trees the day Scout’s mother was killed. Its thropping, spinning wings created vicious winds and vibrated the air in a way that could be felt through the ground into the den. Its constant blasts sent a rain of death and echoed across the hillsides.
If one of those fearsome human machines is back in the valley, as Little Scout told the pack, it’s too dangerous to ignore.